Ulster Bank has decided to extend by a month the deadline for customers whose accounts faced being frozen at the end of this week.
The bank had started to issue six-months’ notice periods to customers in April to find alternative homes for their everyday banking. The first wave of customers were set to have their accounts frozen on October 8th, before being closed 30 days later.
“Following the Government budget announcements on additional social protection payments, we have consulted with key stakeholders to ensure that our withdrawal plans for current and deposit accounts do not cause unnecessary worry or complexity for our customers in receipt of these important one-off additional payments,” Ulster Bank said.
The additional child benefit payment announced in the budget last week is due to be paid by November 1st. The new date for the first wave of Ulster Bank customers is November 4th.
The UK-owned lender announced in February that it was withdrawing from the Irish market, following years of subpar profit returns.
Of the customers who received their first formal notification in April and May, already 64 per cent have either closed or wound down their current account, or left it approaching inactive or dormant status.
“Ulster Bank is continuously reaching out to the remaining one-third of these customers and most are reporting that they have opened a new account elsewhere and are in the process of moving their payments to their new account,” it said.
More than 75 per cent of Ulster Bank personal current account customers in receipt of social protection payments have already taken action on their accounts, before any customer reaches the end of their notice period, and this number continues to rise following campaigns to engage impacted customer, the bank said.
“While today’s decision is important, we are not pausing our withdrawal, the remainder of our work and preparations continue as expected and we will continue to proactively contact customers, in particular those who may still be reliant on their Ulster Bank current accounts and support them in their choose-move-close journey,” said Ulster Bank chief executive Jane Howard.
Minutes of the Central Bank Commission’s meeting from July 5th, which were published on Tuesday, showed director general of financial conduct Derville Rowland provided an update on the planned withdrawals of Ulster Bank Ireland and KBC Ireland from the Irish market.
Ms Rowland said staff were preparing a statistical framework to monitor the migration of accounts from both banks to alternative institutions.
In addition, staff were also working closely with counterparts in the Department of Social Protection with regards to monitoring transition of welfare payments across different cohorts of potentially vulnerable banking customers.
Key areas of focus in engagement with banks included “collective planning, customer-focused arrangements, recognising vulnerability and proactive communications”. She added that more detail would be provided to the commission at its meeting in September.